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Patriarch Alexius II

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Patriarch Alexius II

Alexy II
Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus'
Church Russian Orthodox Church
See Moscow
Installed 10 June 1990
Term ended 5 December 2008
Predecessor Pimen I
Successor Kirill I
Ordination 17 April 1950
Consecration 3 September 1961
by Nikodim of Leningrad
Personal details
Birth name Alexey Mikhailovich Ridiger
Born 23 February 1929
Tallinn, Estonia
Died 5 December 2008(2008-12-05) (aged 79)
Peredelkino, Russia
Buried Epiphany Cathedral at Elokhovo
Spouse Vera Alekseeva (1950–1951)

Patriarch Alexy II (or Alexius II, Russian: Патриарх Алексий II; secular name Alexey Mikhailovich Ridiger[1] Russian: Алексе́й Миха́йлович Ри́дигер; 23 February 1929 – 5 December 2008) was the 15th Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus', the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Elected Patriarch of Moscow eighteen months prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, he became the first Russian Patriarch of the post-Soviet period.

Family history

Alexey Mikhailovich Ridiger's father Mikhail Ridiger (1902–1962), born in Saint Petersburg, was a descendant of a Baltic German family. His ancestor Captain Heinrich Nicolaus (Nils) Rüdinger, the commander of a Swedish fortification in Dünamünde, Swedish Livonia, was knighted by Charles XI of Sweden in 1695. After Swedish Estonia and Swedish Livonia became part of the Russian Empire in the aftermath of the Great Northern War in the beginning of the 18th century, another forefather of Alexy II, Friedrich Wilhelm von Rüdiger (1780–1840), adopted Orthodox Christianity during the reign of Catherine II of Russia. From the marriage with Darya Fyodorovna Yerzhemskaya[2] was born the future Patriarch's great-grandfather, Yegor (Georgi) von Rüdiger (1811–1848).[3]

After the Russian October Revolution in 1917, Alexey Ridiger's father Mikhail became a refugee and the family settled in Estonia, first in Haapsalu where a shelter was provided by priest Ralph von zur Mühlen.[4] Later Mikhail moved to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where he met and married in 1926 Yelena Iosifovna Pisareva (1902–1959),[3] who was born and later died there.[1]

Alexey Ridiger's father graduated from the theological seminary in Tallinn in 1940 and was ordained a deacon and later a priest and served as the rector of the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Tallinn. Later, he was a member and the chairman of the Diocesan Council in Estonia.

Patrilineal family tree[3]

Heinrich Nicolaus (Nils) von Rüdinger
Peter von Rüdinger Karl Magnus von Rüdinger
Friedrich (Fjodor) Wilhelm von Rüdiger
Yegor (Georgi) von Rüdiger
Aleksandr von Rüdiger
Aleksandr von Rüdiger
Mikhail von Ridiger
Alexey Ridiger
Christine Elisabeth von Wickede
Elisabeth Wiesner Charlotte Margarethe von Maltitz
(1758 – 1786)
Darya Fjodorovna Jerzhembska Margarita Feodorovna Gamburger Yevgenia Germanovna Gizetti
Aglaida Yulyevna von Baltz
Jelena Iossifovna Pissareva

Early life

Alexey Ridiger was born and spent his childhood in the Republic of Estonia that had become a Russian Orthodox spiritual center and a home to many Russian émigrés after the Russian October Revolution in 1917.[5]

From his early childhood Alexey Ridiger served in the Orthodox Church under the guidance of his spiritual father: Archpriest Ioann Bogoyavlensky.

Alexey Ridiger attended the Tallinn's Russian Gymnasium.

After the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940 Alexey Ridiger's family was listed for arrest in order to be deported from Estonia according to the Serov Instructions but were not found by the NKVD because instead of staying in their home they were hiding in a nearby hovel.[6]

During Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany (1941–1944) Alexey Ridiger attended with his father Mikhail, who had become an Orthodox priest on 20 December 1942, the German prison camps in Estonia offering salvation to the Russian prisoners of war. Such activities were tolerated by the German occupation authorities because it was seen as an effective anti Soviet propaganda. After Soviet forces returned to Estonia in the autumn of 1944, unlike the most of the people with Baltic German roots, the Ridiger family chose to stay in Estonia and didn't evacuate to the west.[6]

During the war Joseph Stalin had revived the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union.[7] Having been closed during the war time, after the Soviet annexation of Estonia the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn was reopened in 1945. Alexey Ridiger who had become a Soviet citizen[8] served as an altar boy in the cathedral from May to October 1946. He was made a psalm-reader in St.Simeon's Church later that year; in 1947, he officiated in the same office in the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Tallinn.[1]


He entered Leningrad Theological Seminary in 1947, and graduated in 1949. He then entered the Leningrad Theological Academy, and graduated in 1953.[9][10]

On 15 April 1950, he was ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Gregory (Chukov) of Leningrad, and on 17 April 1950, he was ordained a priest and appointed rector of the Theophany church in city of Jõhvi, Estonia, in the Tallinn Diocese. On 15 July 1957, Fr. Alexiy was appointed Rector of the Cathedral of the Dormition in Tallinn and Dean of the Tartu district. He was elevated to the rank of Archpriest on 17 August 1958, and on 30 March 1959 he was appointed Dean of the united Tartu-Viljandi deanery of the Tallinn diocese. On 3 March 1961 he was tonsured a monk in the Trinity Cathedral of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.[9] His name (secular Алексей, clerical Алексий) was not changed when he became a monk, but his patron saint changed from Alexius of Rome to Alexius, Metropolitan of Moscow whose relics repose in the Theophany Cathedral in Moscow.

On 14 August 1961, he was chosen to be the Orthodox Church Bishop of Tallinn and Estonia. On 23 June 1964, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop; and, on 25 February 1968, at the age of 39, metropolitan.[10]

In 1986 he was released from the post of the Chancellor, which he had held since 1961 and which allowed him to be based in the Moscow Patriarchy's headquarters, and transferred to Leningrad; the decision was effectively made by the Council for Religious Affairs and was later presented by Alexy as punishment for his letter in December 1985 to Mikhail Gorbachev with proposals of reforms to church-state relations. Shortly after Alexy's death, the then Chairman of the Council Kharchev strongly denied that and said the decision was aimed at "defusing the tense emotional atmosphere within Patriarch Pimen's inner circle".[11] In an earlier interview Kharchev suggested the removal had been requested by Patriarch Pimen "for a year"[12]

After the death of Patriarch Pimen in 1990 Alexiy was chosen to become the new Patriarch of The Russian Orthodox Church. He was chosen on Local Council on the basis of his administrative experience, and was considered "intelligent, energetic, hardworking, systematic, perceptive, and businesslike."[13] He also "had a reputation as a conciliator, a person who could find common ground with various groups in the episcopate."[14] Archbishop Chrysostom (Martishkin) remarked "With his peaceful and tolerant disposition Patriarch Aleksi will be able to unite us all."[15]

Patriarch Alexy II was "the first patriarch in Soviet history to be chosen without government pressure; candidates were nominated from the floor, and the election was conducted by secret ballot."[10]

Upon taking on the role of Patriarch, Patriarch Alexy became a vocal advocate of the rights of the church, calling for the Soviet government to allow religious education in the state schools and for a "freedom of conscience" law.[10] During the attempted coup in August 1991, he denounced the arrest of Mikhail Gorbachev, and anathematized the plotters.[10] He publicly questioned the junta's legitimacy, called for restraint by the military, and demanded that Gorbachev be allowed to address the people.[16] He issued a second appeal against violence and fratricide, which was amplified over loudspeakers to the troops outside the Russian "White House" half an hour before they attacked.[14] Ultimately, the coup failed, which eventually resulted in the breakup of the Soviet Union.[17]

In July 1998 Alexy II decided not to officiate in the Peter and Paul Cathedral of Saint Petersburg at the burial of the royal family murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918, a ceremony attended by president Boris Yeltsin, citing doubts about the authenticity of the remains.[18]

Under his leadership, the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia who suffered under Communism were glorified, beginning with the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky), and Metropolitan Benjamin (Kazansky) of Petrograd in 1992.[19] In 2000, after much debate, the All-Russian Council glorified Tsar Nicholas II and his family (see Romanov sainthood), as well as many other New Martyrs.[20] More names continue to be added to list of New Martyrs, after the Synodal Canonization Commission completes its investigation of each case.[21]

Alexy II had complicated relations with John Paul II and the Roman Catholic Church. He had a dispute with Rome over the property rights of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine, which had emerged from Soviet control after the Gorbachev's liberalisation of Russia.[22] He nevertheless had good relations with Latin-rite Christians in France and was friends with Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who invited him to the country shortly before his death.[23]

Patriarch Alexy II repeatedly affirmed the traditional stand of the Orthodox Church and opposed the display of homosexuality in Russia, and in particular, opposed gay parades in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Church, according to the Patriarch, "has invariably supported the institution of the family and condemns untraditional relations, seeing them as a vicious deviation from God-given human nature". He also said, "I am convinced that gays' desire to organize a parade in Moscow will not help strengthen the family as the foundation of a strong state".[24] He also said that homosexuality is an illness, and a distortion of the human personality like kleptomania.[25][26]

Patriarch Alexy has also issued statements condemning anti-Semitism.[10]

On 27 April 2007, he was reported by some Russian media to be in grave condition and even dead,[27][28] though this was later shown to have been a hoax.[29][30][31][32] Patriarch Alexiy has stated that the motivation behind these rumors were to scuttle the upcoming reconciliation between the Russian Church inside of Russia with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.[33] "As you can see, I'm healthy, I'm serving, I'm alive," he is quoted as saying.[33] Despite his age, he appeared healthy, and had been leading an active pastoral life. He was frequently seen on Russian TV, conducting Church services, and meeting with various government officials.

In February 2007 a controversy erupted when Diomid, Bishop of Chukotka, condemned the ROC's hierarchy and personally Patrirch Alexy II for ecumenism, supporting democracy and misguided loyalty to the Russian secular authorities.[34][35] Bishop Diomid also took the position that taxpayer IDs, cell phones, passports, vaccination and globalisation were tools of the antichrist,[36] and that the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have "departed from the purity of the Orthodoxal dogma"[37] in its support of the Russian government and of democracy, as well as its ecumenism with other confessions. After a decision of the All-Russian Council, and Bishop Diomid's refusal to appear, he was defrocked in July 2008,[38] In turn, Diomid issued a proclamation in which he anathematized Patriarch Alexy, and some other bishops.[38]

Personal life

He married Vera Alekseeva,[39] the daughter of a priest from Tallinn Georgi Alekseev, later Bishop of Tallinn and Archbishop of Gorki, on 11 April 1950,[40][41][42] on the Tuesday of Bright Week when marriages are normally prohibited according to Church tradition; however, permission was granted by Metropolitan Gregory of Leningrad, at the request of Bishop Roman of Tallinn and the fathers of both the bride and groom (both of whom were priests, and who concelebrated the marriage together). Moskovskie Novosti has alleged that according to a denunciation written by a priest-inspector Pariysky to the Leningrad Council of Religious Affairs, the marriage had been expedited in order for Ridiger to become a deacon and avoid being drafted into the Soviet Military (marriage is impossible after ordination in Orthodoxy). Up until 1950, seminarians were given a deferment from the draft, but in 1950 this was changed, and only clergy were exempt. For reasons which have remained private, they divorced less than a year later.[40][42]

The Patriarch's private residence was located in the village of Lukino (near Peredelkino), now a western suburb of Moscow; it includes a 17th-century church, a museum, and a spacious three-storey house built in the late 1990s. According to the Patriarch's May 2005, interview,[43] on the residence's compound, nuns drawn from the Pühtitsa Convent took care of all the household chores.

There was also a working residence in central Moscow—a 19th-century town mansion, which had been turned over to the Patriarchate by Stalin's order in September 1943. Both residences acted as living quarters and Patriarch's office at the same time. He commuted in an armored car and was under the protection of federal agents (FSO) since January 2000.[44]

The formal residence (infrequently used for some official functions) is located in the Moscow Danilov Monastery – a two-storey Soviet building erected in the 1980s.

He died on 5 December 2008, from heart failure aged 79.

Awards and honors

Patriarch Alexy II was an honorary member of the Theological Academies in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Crete, Greece. He was made Doctor of Theology honoris causa at the Debrecen Reformed Theological University in Debrecen, Hungary. He also was honored by St. Vladimir's Seminary and St. Tikhon's Seminary an at the Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage in the USA. He was given the title of honorary professor by the Omsk State University and the Moscow State University. He was given an honorary Doctorate of Philology by St. Petersburg University. He was given an honorary Doctorate of Theology by the Theological Faculty of the University of Belgrade. He was given an honorary Doctorate of Theology by the Tbilisi Theological Academy in Georgia. He received a Golden Medal from the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the Kosice University in Kosice, Slovakia, and was an honorary member of the International Charity and Health Foundation.[49]

Awards of the Russian Orthodox Church and other local churches
  • Order of St. Andrew with a diamond star
  • Order "Glory and Honor" (2005) [128]
  • Order of the Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow, 1st class
  • Order of St. Alexis the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia, 1st class
  • Order of St. Macarius the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia, 1st class
  • Order of St. Prince Vladimir Equal, 1st class (27 May 1968) and 2nd class (11 May 1963)
  • Order of St. Sergius, 1st class (21 February 1979)
  • Order of St. Innocent Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna, 1st class
  • Order of Saint Blessed Prince Dimitry Donskoy great, 1st class (2005)
  • Order of Saints Cyril and Methodius, 1st class (Czechoslovak Orthodox Church, 20 October 1962)
  • Order of St. John of Rila, 1st class (Bulgarian Orthodox Church, May 1968)
  • Order of St. Mark (Orthodox Church of Alexandria, 1969)
  • Order of the Holy Cross, 1st and 2nd classes (Jerusalem Orthodox Church, 1968, 1984)
  • Order of St. George, 1st and 2nd classes (Georgian Orthodox Church, 1968, 1972)
  • Order of the Apostles Peter and Paul, 2nd class (Antiochian Orthodox Church, 1 September 1981)
Other orders Metropolitan Patriarch of Antioch
  • Order of St. John the Martyr Archbishop of Riga, 1st class (Latvian Orthodox Church, 28 May 2006)
  • Medal of 1,500th anniversary of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem (1965)
  • Gold medal, 1st class the Holy Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica (Greece, 25 September 1980)
  • Gold Medal of the I degree Archdiocese of St. Catherine of Katerini (Greece, 4 May 1982)
  • Medal "15 years of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk dioceses" (Diocese of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk, 22 March 2008)
State awards of the Russian Federation
  • Order of St. Andrew (19 February 1999) – for outstanding contribution to the spiritual and moral rebirth of Russia, to preserve peace and harmony in society
  • Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 1st class (23 February 2004) – for outstanding contribution to strengthening peace and harmony between peoples, the restoration of historical and cultural heritage of Russia; 2nd class (11 September 1997) – for outstanding contribution to the achievement of unity and harmony in society and long-term peacekeeping efforts
  • Order of Friendship of Peoples (22 February 1994) – for his great personal contribution to the spiritual revival of Russia and active peacemaking
  • State Prize of the Russian Federation for outstanding achievements in the field of humanitarian action in 2005 (9 June 2006, presented 12 June).
State awards of the USSR
Awards of the Russian Federation
  • Order of the "Key of Friendship" (Kemerovo region)
  • Order of the White Lotus (Kalmykia, 1997)
Departmental awards
  • Commemorative Medal Gorchakov (Russian Foreign Ministry, 2002)
  • Badge "For mercy and charity" (Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, 2003) [137].
  • Medal "For contributions to the development of agro-industrial complex» I degree (Ministry of Agriculture of Russia, 2005) [138]
  • Medal Anatoly Koni (Russian Ministry of Justice, 2000) [139]
Foreign awards
  • Order of "Glory" (Azerbaijan, 14 September 2005) – for services in the development of friendly relations between the peoples of Azerbaijan and Russia
  • Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, 1st class (Estonia, 29 September 2003)
  • Order of the Three Stars, 1st class (Latvia, 27 May 2006)
  • Order of Friendship of Peoples (Belarus, 26 March 2004) – for the fruitful work of rapprochement and mutual enrichment of national cultures, and his great personal contribution to the spiritual and intellectual potential of the fraternal peoples of Belarus and Russia
  • Order of Francisc Skorina (Belarus, 23 September 1998) – for outstanding achievements in developing and strengthening friendly relations between nations
  • Medal of Honour (Belarus, 2008)
  • Medal Skarina (Belarus, 22 July 1995) – for outstanding contribution to the Orthodox Church in the spiritual revival of the Belarusian people
  • Order of the Republic (Moldova, 12 November 2005)
  • National Order of the Cedar (Lebanon, 6 October 1991)
  • Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas, 1st class (Lithuania, 1997)
  • Order Dostyk, 1st class (Kazakhstan, 2002)
  • Order of the Republic (PMR, 8 February 1999) – for his invaluable contribution in promoting the true Orthodox faith of our fathers, a huge, sustained attention, and displaying to the children of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of our State, and in connection with the 70th anniversary of the birth
Community Awards
  • Diploma of the Soviet Peace Fund (23 August 1969)
  • Medal and certificate of the Soviet Peace Foundation (13 December 1971)
  • Commemorative medal inscribed board of the Soviet Peace Fund (1969)
  • Medal of the World Peace Council (1976) – in connection with the 25th anniversary of the peace movement
  • Medal of the Soviet Peace Committee (1974) – in connection with the 25th anniversary of the Committee
  • Diploma of the Soviet Peace Committee (November 1979)
  • Certificate of Merit and a commemorative medal of the Soviet Peace Fund (November 1979)
  • Commemorative medal of the World Peace Council (1981) – in connection with the 30th anniversary of the peace movement
  • Honour Board of the Soviet Peace Foundation (15 December 1982) – for active participation in the fund
  • Charter of the Soviet-Indian friendship
  • According to Keston News Service, in 1988 was awarded the Honorary Diploma of the KGB
  • Honorary citizenship of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Sergiev Posad, the Republic of Kalmykia, of the Republic of Mordovia, of the Leningrad Region, the Republic of Karelia (2006), Dimitrov (2003), Murom (Vladimir Region, 2006), Kemerovo Region (2005) and Podolsk, Moscow Region (2001)
Honorary degrees
  • Honorary Doctor of the Baku Slavic University, [163]
  • Honorary Doctor of Petrozavodsk State University (2000) [164]
  • Planck's Order of St. Pervozvannogo
  • Order "For merits before Fatherland» I degree
  • Order "For merits before Fatherland» II degrees
  • Order of Red Banner of Labor Order of Friendship Order of Friendship of Peoples
  • Medal Anatoly Koni
  • Medal for contributions to the development of agriculture
  • Band to White Lotus (Kalmykia). Png
  • Order of "Glory" (Azerbaijan)
  • Order of Friendship of Peoples (Belarus)
  • Order Skarina
  • Order of Merit (Belarus)
  • Medal of Francis Skorina rib.png
  • Order of the Republic (PMR)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Cross Mary's Land
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Three Stars
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas
  • Dostyk Order of 1st degree
  • Most of the National Order of the Cedar tape
  • Order of the Republic (Moldova)
  • Tape "15 years of the Diocese of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk». Png
  • Russian Federation State Prize
  • Order "Glory and Honor"
  • The Order of St. Alexis the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia, I degree
  • Order of St. Prince Vladimir Equal-I degree (ROC)
  • Order of St. Prince Vladimir Equal-II degree (ROC)
  • Order of the Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow, I degree
  • The Order of St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna, a degree
  • The Order of Saint Blessed Prince Dimitry Donskoy great I degree
  • Order of St. Sergius I of a degree
  • Honorary citizen of Moscow


Apology to Germany

During Alexy II's first official visit to Germany in 1995, the Patriarch publicly apologized for the "Communist tyranny that had been imposed upon the German nation by the USSR". The apology resulted in accusations by Russian Communists and the Russian National Bolshevik Party of insulting the Russian nation and treason.[50]

Opposition in the Russian Orthodox Church

Some activities, views and policies of Alexy II such as engaging in ecumenical dialogue (when Metropolitan, Alexy had been one of the presidents of the Conference of European Churches since 1964; in March 1987 he was elected President of the CEC Presidium and Advisory Committee, in which post he remained until November 1990)[51] with representatives of other religious groups[52] and publicly condemning antisemitism[53] were met with opposition by some in the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Alexy II responded by saying that such people do not represent the opinions of the church but expressed their own private views as free citizens instead.[54]

Alleged work for the KGB

Patriarch Alexy II was alleged to have been a KGB agent according to multiple sources,[55][56][57][58][59][60] including Gleb Yakunin and Yevgenia Albats, who both were given access to the KGB archives.[57][61][62][63] He was mentioned in the KGB archives by the code name DROZDOV. However, it was very unusual for any person to be referenced in KGB documents prior to 1980 without a code name, regardless of their affiliation with, or independence from the KGB.[57] It has been alleged that archival documents seen by Yevgenia Albats stated that Alexy was awarded an Honorary Citation by the KGB chairman in 1988.[62] It has also been claimed, based on a document from the Estonian KGB archives, that Alexy was a highly successful agent who "pacified" rebellious monks.[64] This document provides biographical details about an agent which match those of Patriarch Alexy, though the Russian Orthodox Church has denied the authenticity of this document.[65] According to Oleg Gordievsky, Alexy had been working for the KGB for forty years, and his case officer was Nikolai Patrushev. These claims are supported by the British-based Keston Institute.[66]

The Moscow Patriarchate has, however, consistently denied that Patriarch Alexy was in fact a KGB Agent.[67] Konstanin Kharchev, former chairman of Soviet Council on Religious Affairs, explained: "Not a single candidate for the office of bishop or any other high-ranking office, much less a member of Holy Synod, went through without confirmation by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the KGB".[62] Professor Nathaniel Davis points out: "If the bishops wished to defend their people and survive in office, they had to collaborate to some degree with the KGB, with the commissioners of the Council for Religious Affairs, and with other party and governmental authorities."[68]

Patriarch Alexy has acknowledged that compromises were made with the Soviet government by bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, himself included, and publicly repented of these compromises:

"Defending one thing, it was necessary to give somewhere else. Were there any other organizations, or any other people among those who had to carry responsibility not only for themselves but for thousands of other fates, who in those years in the Soviet Union were not compelled to act likewise? Before those people, however, to whom the compromises, silence, forced passivity or expressions of loyalty permitted by the leaders of the church in those years caused pain, before these people, and not only before God, I ask forgiveness, understanding and prayers."[69]

According to Nathaniel Davis, when asked by the Russian press about claims that he was a "compliant" bishop, "Aleksi defended his record, noting that while he was bishop of Tallinn in 1961, he resisted the communist authorities' efforts to make the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the city a planetarium (which, in truth, they did do elsewhere in the Baltic states) and to convert the Pyukhtitsa Dormition nunnery to a rest home for miners."[70] Official records show that the Tallinn diocese had a lower number of forced Church closings than was typical in the rest of the USSR during Patriarch Alexy's tenure as bishop there.[71] Timothy Ware notes, "Opinions differ over the past collaboration or otherwise between the Communist authorities, but on the whole he is thought to have shown firmness and independence in his dealings as a diocesan bishop with the Soviet State."[72]

Opposition to homosexuality

He was supported by most Russians in regards to sexual morality. A minority of Western "LGBT" groups and homosexuals in Russia spoke against his opposition to public promotion of homosexuality: "I am convinced that gays' desire to organize a parade in Moscow will not help strengthen the family as the foundation of a strong state".[73] He also said that homosexuality is an illness and a distortion of the human personality like kleptomania.[74][75]

This is what the Orthodox Church considers as their beliefs about homosexuality:

Homosexuality is a sinful distortion of human nature, which is overcome by spiritual effort leading to the healing and personal growth of the individual. Homosexual desires, just as other passions torturing fallen man, are healed by the Sacraments, prayer, fasting, repentance, reading of Holy Scriptures and patristic writings, as well as Christian fellowship with believers who are ready to give spiritual support. While treating people with homosexual inclinations with pastoral responsibility, the Church is resolutely against the attempts to present this sinful tendency as a "norm" and even something to be proud of and emulate. This is why the Church denounces any propaganda of homosexuality. Without denying anybody the fundamental rights to life, respect for personal dignity and participation in public affairs, the Church, however, believes that those who propagate the homosexual way of life should not be admitted to educational and other work with children and youth, nor to occupy superior posts in the army and reformatories.


Death and burial

Alexy died at his home at his Peredelkino residence on 5 December 2008, reportedly of heart failure.[77]

On 7 December 2008, Russia President Medvedev issued a decree which "enjoined" that on the day of the Patriarch's burial Russia's cultural establishments and broadcasters should cancel entertaining programs and assistance be furnished to the Patrirchate on the part of the federal and city governments for organization of the burial.[78] However, the order did not amount to a formal national mourning.[79]

On 9 December 2008, the Order for the Burial (funeral service) of the deceased Patriarch was presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour,[80] whereafter he was interred in the southern chapel of the Epiphany Cathedral at Elokhovo in Moscow.[81]

During the service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, which was broadcast live by Russia's state TV channels, after Kathisma XVII had been chanted and Metropolitan Kirill set about doing the incensing round the coffin, he appeared to teeter and, being propped up by two bishops,[82] was ushered into the sanctuary and was absent for about an hour. Reuters reported: "Kirill was helped away by aides at one point and a Kremlin official said he had apparently fainted. The metropolitan later rejoined the funeral."[83][84] The ROC official spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin lashed out at the news media that had reported the incident "incorrectly" insisting that Kirill had not fainted, but merely had "felt unwell".[85]

Opinions about Alexy II

  • According to Russia's Prime-minister Vladimir Putin: "Patriarch Alexy II had been a prominent figure in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as a great statesman <...> he made a very considerable contribution to relations between various faiths. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he had friendly relations with representatives of all traditional faiths in Russia". Putin also acknowledged that Alexy II "did a great deal to help establish a new governance system in Russia".[86]

  • On the day of Alexy II death the BBC said: "Patriarch Alexiy II had an extraordinary career, in which he switched from suppressing the Russian Orthodox Church to being its champion. A favourite of the KGB, he was promoted rapidly through the Church hierarchy, doing the Kremlin's bidding at a time when dissident priests were thrown into jail. As the Church's effective foreign minister, he helped cover up the repression of Russian Christians, defending the Soviet system to the outside world. He rose quickly through the ranks, being elected head of the Russian Orthodox Church at a crucial time, in 1990, with the Soviet Union on the path to collapse. Surprisingly, perhaps, he seized the moment, and went on to oversee the revival and flowering of the Church."[87]
  • Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a leader in the American Jewish community, was asked by church officials to attend the Patriarch's funeral. In a statement, he stated that Alexy II "served as the ethical pulse of the religious community in the former Soviet Union under a regime that neither welcomed nor tolerated people of faith and the leaders of organized religion."[88]


External links

  • Patriarch Alexey,
Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
Succeeded by

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